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Jeff Nye: The Fire and the Flood, 2011, 12 paintings, 12 video projections and audio

The Fire and the Flood was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of Regina in 2011. The Fire recalls Lumsden, Saskatchewan’s historic hotel and the night that it burnt to the ground. Each painting is identified with a particular person; bartender, patron, firefighter, and witness. The Flood commemorates the Lumsden flood of 1974. The imagery is based on recollections of people who were there, and their voices form the installation’s multichannel sound component. Our experience or witnessing of disasters such as fires or floods produces a shared sense of vulnerability and an empathic response on one hand, while indulging a desire for spectacle on the other. As much as communities can be destroyed by such events, they can also be formed when individuals gather to recall their own traumatic experiences.

The ambivalent roles of trauma, of the local hotel – a place for social gathering and impairment – and the river’s nourishing, yet periodically harmful flow, echo the creative and destructive forces that are core to this project. Each brushstroke – each attempt to bring something into the visible – carries a simultaneous gesture of concealment, burying something else within the painting. Like apparitions, the projections bring everything that has been lost back to the surface. Each oil painting doubles as a projection screen. The surfaces of the paintings and the projections disrupt one another, echoing the cognitive space inhabited when memory interrupts the present and vice versa.

Many thanks to Verne Barber, Dave Cameron, Bob Hill, Marilyn Hill, Louise Holloway, Phil Holloway, Bill Klempp, Brock Nye & Carol Nye for contributing to this project. The Fire and The Flood received support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Saskatchewan Arts Board for which I am truly grateful.

More images to come as we develop the website.